'Chicago Tribune' Calls For Burris' Resignation Sen. Roland Burris continues to face questions about the events leading up to his appointment to the Illinois seat. The Chicago Tribune has called for his resignation in an op-ed. Also, the stimulus bill has passed, and President Obama still has gaps to fill in his cabinet.
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'Chicago Tribune' Calls For Burris' Resignation

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'Chicago Tribune' Calls For Burris' Resignation

'Chicago Tribune' Calls For Burris' Resignation

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan. President Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; politicians say bye-bye to bipartisanship; and the Land of 10,000 Lakes still has only one sitting senator. It's Wednesday, and time once again for the Political Junkie.

Former President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, "Where's the Beef?"

Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Former President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

Former President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider...

(Soundbite of Howard Dean scream)

NEARY: On Wednesdays, NPR's political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk politics, and as usual, there's lots to cover: the political turmoil surrounding the $787 billion stimulus bill; President Obama's still- unfinished Cabinet; New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg first says he wants to become Commerce secretary, then says he doesn't; and there are two ethics investigations into how new Illinois Senator Roland Burris got his seat. The Chicago Tribune says: Roland Burris, resign. We'll talk to the editor of the Tribune's editorial page in a few minutes. We begin first, as always, with a trivia question, and Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Good to have you with us, as always.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Lynn. Thank you. Well, OK, Roland Burris is now in his 34th day as a U.S. senator - I don't know if it seems longer or shorter - but it's the 34th day. Who is the last senator whose tenure lasted less than two months?

NEARY: All right. So, if you think you know the name of the last senator whose tenure lasted less than two months, give us a call. Our number here in Washington, 800-989-8255, or you can send us an email. The email address is talk@npr.org. All right, we'll wait for your calls and now, Ken, let's talk about the stimulus bill which President Obama signed yesterday. That was a long time coming.

RUDIN: Well, it was, and of course, Barack Obama, President Obama, said that it may not be a perfect bill but it was a much-needed bill, and to delay would have been bad. So, even though no Republican in the House and only three Republicans in the Senate voted for it - only seven Democrats in the House voted against it - it passed basically on party lines and now, everybody will be - have jobs, and everything will be all right with the world.

NEARY: Now...

RUDIN: I'm saying that tongue-in-cheek, of course, because nobody seems to know what will happen, but Obama said - President Obama said that to do nothing would be far worse.

NEARY: All right. And so, what does this mean for bipartisanship? I mean, President Obama came in wanting to foster bipartisanship in Washington. Where are we on that?

RUDIN: Well, and he spoke to Republicans; he wooed Republicans. He tried to, you know, when - obviously, a lot of what happened couldn't have been possible without some Republican support, and there were Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter, both of - the first two women, from Maine, and then Specter of Pennsylvania. And there are more tax cuts in the final product than many Democrats, perhaps, would have liked, but Republicans, those three Republicans, had to have come onboard, because unlike in the House, where you only need a majority of the vote, in the Senate, you need the magic number of 60 votes, and to get 60, you had to get at least two Republicans, three - right now, it's 59 Democrats and - no, I'm sorry, it's 58 Democrats and 41 Republicans, and there's one vacancy, because we don't have another senator in Minnesota. So obviously, they need - look, if they didn't need the Republicans, they would have obviously - they would have not had to do the compromise at all, and the tax cuts wouldn't have been passed. But until the Democrats have that 60-vote majority and if they do - you know, until they do, they're going to have to reach out to Republicans like Snowe, Specter and Collins.

NEARY: But do you think that it's going to have the prominence that it's - will the Obama administration put as much emphasis on bipartisanship as it proceeds to - in its dealings with Congress?

RUDIN: I think the answer is - the question is not so much whether they are trying to get bipartisanship; they are trying to get it passed. And of course, if they could do it with no Republican support, they would. And again, you know, that's the way Rahm Emanuel probably would like to work, and it's the probably the way Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would like to work, too. The numbers is really what determines this thing, and until the Democrats get to 60 votes, they're going to have to reach out. There are other bills that will come up. Obviously, there's going to be stuff on home foreclosures, on prescription drugs, on a health-care bill, that they may very well needsome Republican crossover support but right now, they don't have - right now, they don't have the magic number to keep the Republicans out of the negotiations.

NEARY: All right. Let's see, we have an email here with somebody - from David, suggesting, is the answer to your trivia question Muriel Humphrey?

RUDIN: Well, Muriel Humphrey did last a short time. Obviously, she was appointed after Hubert Humphrey died in 1978, and she served several months. She served until the end of the 1978 year. So, her tenure was more than six months. There's somebody more recent and obviously, less than two months.

NEARY: All right, let's take a call now. Let's go to Ted in Tucson, Arizona. Hi, Ted.

TED (Caller): Hey. I think the answer is Jocelyn Burdick.

RUDIN: Well, Jocelyn Burdick, of course, as you all well remember...

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: She's the widow of Quentin Burdick from North Dakota, and she was appointed in 1992. She served for two and three-quarters months. So, she is among the shortest tenure in recent Senate history, but she's not the less-than-two-months person we're looking for. Jocelyn Burdick certainly came close.

TED: Well, there were also - wasn't there a woman who was appointed in Alabama, like, way back in the '20s or '30s that served one day?

RUDIN: You're obviously thinking of Rebecca Felton.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: I can't believe we're talking about this. Rebecca Felton of Georgia was not only the oldest woman ever elected to that - appointed to the Senate, she was also the first woman ever appointed to the Senate. Even though - she served from October 3rd to November 21st, as you well remember, in 1922, but she only - but the Senate was only in session for one day, and I think it was a symbolic appointment. They wanted her to have at least one day in the Senate. So, even though her tenure was about a month and a half or so, the Senate was in session for one day. So, Rebecca Felton, a Democrat of Georgia - I can't believe I'm talking about this - served...

TED: You brought it up.

RUDIN: I know. I love it. I loved that you asked that - served one day, but officially, she lasted about a month and a half. There's somebody more recently who served less than two months, far more recently than Rebecca Felton.

NEARY: All right, thanks for your call, Ted.

TED: All right, thank you.

NEARY: We're going to go to another person who thinks they have the right answer to this trivia question, Bruce in California. Go ahead.

BRUCE (Caller): Hi, good morning. Is that Pierre Salinger? Someone from California...

RUDIN: Well...

BRUCE: I'm not sure if it's Pierre Salinger.

RUDIN: Pierre Salinger was appointed to the Senate after Clair Engle, Mr. Clair Engle, died in 1964, and he served, I guess, from June of '64 until the end of the year, when he was defeated by George Murphy, the former song-and-dance man. But Pierre Salinger was about six months in 1964. Again, the person we're looking for, less than two months and far more recently than Pierre Salinger in '64.

BRUCE: All right.

NEARY: All right, thanks for your call.


RUDIN: I love these names.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: They were - I mean, when do we talk about these people?

NEARY: All right, well, let's go to Dan in Syracuse and see who he's thinking of.

DAN (Caller): My guess is Mel Carnahan. I don't think he even actually served a day, but he was elected.

RUDIN: Well, that's an interesting - he never served, because he died three weeks before the election. He was the governor of Missouri who was elected - ran, who died in a plane crash two or three - I guess, two or three weeks before the election in 2000, and yet, even though he had been deceased, he beat John Ashcroft, the Republican senator from Missouri. But Mel Carnahan actually never served in the Senate, having passed away before the actual election.


NEARY: All right. Thanks for your call.

DAN: Thank you.

NEARY: One other thing I want to talk with you about, Ken, is the fact that President Obama is still trying to fill his Cabinet. Still vacant, Health and Human Services and Commerce and, of course, Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican from New Hampshire, had accepted the president's invitation to be Commerce secretary; then, he declined it. Let's listen to what he had to say.

(Soundbite of speech, February 12, 2009)

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): Bottom line is this was simply a bridge too far for me. The president asked me to do it. I said yes. That was my mistake, not his, or maybe it was his.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. GREGG: Maybe it was kind of his, but it was my mistake, obviously, to say yes, because it wasn't my personality, and after 30 years of being myself, it would have been hard to assume another role that would've - where I couldn't have been 100 percent all the time the team player that he needed.

RUDIN: This was a very odd thing to watch there in a city that we've seen so many odd things happening lately, and of course, Roland Burris may be at the top of the list. Judd Gregg's acceptance and then withdrawal as possible Commerce secretary was a surprise. Obviously, Judd Gregg, a very conservative - fiscally conservative senator, joining a, perhaps, a liberal administration, philosophically, he may never agree with them - although - with the administration - although Judd Gregg did have a strong relationship with Barack Obama prior to the election and since the election. But apparently, a lot of things were taken away from Judd Gregg that he was not sure of, in other words, the census, the counting of the census, which has become a big partisan issue among Democrats and Republicans. The White House wanted more control over it than Judd Gregg wanted and then - so, Judd Gregg was upset about that. And once he saw what was in the stimulus bill, his people say that it just became untenable, that he couldn't join the administration. But again, he had to know what the Obama people were talking about before he accepted it.

NEARY: Is this unprecedented, by the way? I mean, has it...

RUDIN: Well, we've seen - it's unprecedented in that we've seen already three withdrawals. We've seen Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle and Judd Gregg withdraw.

NEARY: Yeah.

RUDIN: But I guess it was kind of - and it was also unprecedented to - again, for Barack Obama to reach across to getting a sitting senator from the other party. But it just seemed very strange, in a city that is known for strange things, the way this came about.

NEARY: All right, we're going to take another call now. We're going to go to Paul, and Paul is calling from South Carolina. Hi, Paul.

PAUL (Caller): Hi. How are you doing?

NEARY: Good, thanks.

PAUL: Well, I think it's a more recent person in history, 2008 Libertarian candidate from Minnesota, Dean Barkley.

RUDIN: Well, the answer is Dean Barkley. He wasn't the Libertarian; I guess he was the Reform Party candidate. He was the guy - Jesse Ventura appointed him. This was right after Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash, also, before the 2002 election. Dean Barkley served 59 days, from November of 2002 until his term ended January 3rd, 2003. You win the no-prize, the official no-prize. Congratulations.

PAUL: Thank you very much.

NEARY: Congratulations. It's a great prize.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PAUL: Thank you.

NEARY: Thanks for calling in, Paul.

PAUL: Thanks.

NEARY: And just one other thing, the Senate race in Minnesota between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, still undecided; what's the latest?

RUDIN: And you know, for those people who think that, why are we spending so much time on this, obviously, if you remember during the stimulus vote, they held, the Democrats held, the vote open for five hours or seven hours for Senator Sherrod Brown, the Democrat from Ohio, to come back from his mother's funeral so he would provide the 60th vote. That just shows how important every Senate vote, every Senate seat, is. Right now, again, it's still unofficially that Al Franken, the Democratic challenger, has a 225-vote lead. Norm Coleman, who had been the Republican incumbent, has been asking a three-judge panel to look over some 7,000 - 7,900 rejected absentee ballots. Some of the recent court rulings have gone against Coleman. So ultimately, I suspect that Franken will get appointed, but there are some people who say that one of reasons Coleman is staying on as long as he can is to hope that the Senate would just throw up its hands and call for a special election. That's unlikely to happen.

NEARY: Well, as you can hear, it's Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us. Up next, we're going to be talking more about what's starting to feel like a never-ending scandal over the open Illinois Senate seat. Should Roland Burris resign? I'm Lynn Neary. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. It's Wednesday, and as always, Ken Rudin is here to talk politics. And if once a week isn't enough of a fix for you, he's blogging all day long, every day, at npr.org/junkie. In just a minute, Bruce Dold, the editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune, will join us. This morning, the paper called for the resignation of Senator Roland Burris. You'll remember that he was picked by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was later impeached for trying to sell the seat. And we want to hear from our listeners in Illinois. Should Roland Burris resign? Or is it too early to call for his resignation? Our number here in Washington, 800-989-8255; our email address is talk@npr.org. Senator Roland Burris addressed the City Club in Chicago today. He defended himself against allegations that he was unethical.

(Soundbite of speech, February 18, 2009)

Senator ROLAND BURRIS (Democrat, Illinois): I'm new in Washington, OK? They don't know me out there yet. They don't know me yet, OK? Trust and relationships take time to build. But my record in Illinois goes back decades, as do my friendship with many of you in this room. Thirty years I've been in service of this state, and you know me. You know the real Roland. I am the real Roland. If I had done the things I've been accused of, I would be too embarrassed to stand up here in front of you, because you all are my friends.

NEARY: That was Roland Burris, speaking to the City Club in Chicago earlier today. Bruce Dold, the editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune, joins us now from the studios of WGN Radio in Chicago. Good to have you on Talk of the Nation.

Mr. BRUCE DOLD (Editorial Page Editor, Chicago Tribune): Thank you, Lynn.

NEARY: So, that was a tough editorial. Let me read the opening paragraph.

(Reading) The benefit of the doubt had already been stretched thin and taut by the time Roland Burris offered his third version of the events leading to his appointment to the U.S. Senate. It finally snapped like a rubber band, popping him on that long Pinocchio nose of his when he came out with version four.

You sound kind of mad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOLD: You know, Roland Burris's very first act as a U.S. senator, while he was actually waiting for confirmation - he had the appointment - was to go to testify under oath to the Illinois House Impeachment Committee. And he laid out a very benign version of events leading up to his appointment that would have you think that he had one scant conversation with a crony of Rod Blagojevich. So, we've had a few more versions since then. And now, it's come out that he had three conversations, at least three conversations, with the governor's brother and his chief fundraiser, and he did suggest that he would try and do some fundraising for the governor. And he says he wasn't successful because nobody was going to give the guy a dime.

NEARY: Yeah. Well, you say, enough; this is enough. He should resign. Do you think he really will?

Mr. DOLD: I don't expect so. He was, I wouldn't say, defiant today at the City Club, but what he was saying was, look, I've been here for 30 years; you know me, you know, don't rush to - I know he's saying, don't rush to judgment on these things. I have known him for 30 years. I covered him as a reporter way back when he was the comptroller of Illinois, and have dealt with him on the editorial board at the paper. And I'd say he has been a competent public official over the years. But it's just, you know, enough is enough. Illinois keeps exporting this crazy politics that keep you all amused. And we're just saying, you know, we need to finish this. And so, when your very first act in the U.S. Senate raises suspicion about whether you lied under oath, or at a minimum, you know, kept a lot of pertinent facts out of the record, we're just saying, you know, enough; we've got to move on.

NEARY: Well, you have a new governor, Pat Quinn. If Burris did resign, he'd have the power to name the new senator, right?

Mr. DOLD: He would. But you know, we push - when everyone knew that there was going to be this vacancy, President Obama was going off to Washington, and we wanted to have a special election. The legislature could have done that, and Illinois Democrats did say that that's what they wanted to do, and they backed off on that, and I think they were almost daring Rod Blagojevich to make a pick, but they took that chance. And so, Blagojevich's last - essentially his last big act was to pick Roland Burris. What I'd like to see them do now - we don't know if there's going to be another opening or not, but if he does resign, I think that the legislature ought to just give it back to the people. Maybe they'll mess up; maybe they'll make a bad decision, but let them make the decision instead of having the politicians make it.

NEARY: Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: The Senate Ethics Committee has started a preliminary inquiry in the Burris affair, but I suspect that given the fact that he is the - Burris is the only African-American in the Senate, they would probably feel a little uncomfortable about forcing him out, forcing him to resign. And I think that they're relying on a lot of things to happen in Springfield. Once the - first of all, we saw what Blagojevich - we always thought that he - if he had any shame or self-respect, he would have resigned, and of course, he didn't. What's the likelihood for something to come out of Springfield regarding Burris?

Mr. DOLD: I think that this has been referred to the Sangamon County state's attorney's office, which - who is the local prosecutor in Springfield. The Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, tells me that she has no legal jurisdiction over this case and so, she has referred it to him. But that's - that's not a perjury case. I think it's doubtful that they can make a legal case of perjury here. I don't know that; I'm just saying that it's doubtful. The House Impeachment Committee is probably not going to get the old gang back together and bring him for - their work is pretty well done. So, on the local level, this is probably a question of whether the local state's attorney wants to bring a case. The Senate Ethics Committee, as I understand, you know, that it's pro forma for them to set up a preliminary inquiry. I don't know if anything will come from that.

I do get the sense that Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are being extremely cautious about this, that, you know, this is - they do not want this. They just don't want this. They know how critical, you know, that seat is to them. Now, it will go to a Democrat, I would anticipate - although if you had a special election, you know, who knows? The climate here now - you know, Republicans would have a much better chance in this Democratic state than they normally would. Dick Durbin's been out of the country. I was on with - talking with his communications director, who was outraged that we would suggest that he was dodging making comment. He made some - Durbin made some comment today but really didn't have much to say. So, my sense from those guys is they're treading water; they're really just kind of biding time and hoping it goes away.

RUDIN: And both Reid and Durbin, of course, opposed the seating or the acceptance by the Senate of Burris or anybody that Blagojevich appointed.

Mr. DOLD: Right, initially, they were - they didn't like this idea. They were opposed to it. Then they came around. I think they may have gotten some pressure from President Obama to make it go away. But one thing they said, though, they said, Roland, you have to go to that House Impeachment Committee and testify fully and openly and completely, and he didn't do that. I mean, I don't think there's any question - it's not a question of perjury, but he just did not give that committee all the information that they wanted. And you'd think now, if he had told that committee he had talked to the governor's brother, I think everybody would have, whoa - at a minimum would've stalled his confirmation by the Senate and maybe would have killed it.

NEARY: If you're from Illinois, what do you think? Should Roland Burris resign from his Senate seat? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Let's go to Ross. Ross is calling from Chicago. Hi, Ross.

ROSS (Caller): Hi. How are you doing? I definitely couldn't agree more with your speakers. I live half the week in Chicago, and half the week in Texas. And I'm a Democrat, and you know, regardless of the race factor with Barack in the office now, I don't think he can use that against someone who is blatantly corrupt. I think all of us in Illinois saw through Burris's motives when he accepted the nod, and it's time for him to go, and we shouldn't stand for it. This is a time for hope and a time for change, and we're not going to stand for corruptness anymore.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for your call, Ross.

ROSS: Thank you.

NEARY: Let's go to Tom. He's also calling from Chicago. Hi, Tom.

TOM (Caller): Yes, I feel very strongly it's time for him to resign. And I think he had a clear understanding, as did his attorney, of what was the tainted state of this seat and what people were looking for from a factual standpoint. And as your participant here pointed out, he's had three-plus conversations with Blagojevich's brother. But I think in a larger sense, as a longtime Illinois resident, we need our own stimulus. And I'm not - it's not a play on words, but I think to regenerate democracy in Illinois. I think the real benefit that could come out of this is a strong Republican candidate coming forward. And I'm a lifelong Democrat, but I am still very, very resentful of the one-party system in Illinois, whether it's the city or now, down in the state. I think the farcical candidates that the Republicans have thrown up in recent memory have really just contributed to that. And I think this could be just a situation where a strong Republican candidate might step forward and, I think, really be in a great position to win it, which would help all of us, Democrat or Republican, to return to a two-party state.

RUDIN: You know, what's interesting, Tom, about that point is that for 30 years until 2002, for 30 years, Illinois had Republican governors, I guess, from - you know, after Dan Walker from - until Blagojevich. So, they had Republican governors for 30 years, and now, it's almost like a distant memory that they had any kind of Republican control in that state.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for your call, Tom.

TOM: Thank you.

NEARY: We'll take one more call, from Champagne, Illinois, Judith. Hi, Judith.

JUDITH (Caller): Hi, I'm an independent voter who has recently been voting Democratic, and I was actually disappointed that he was seated in the first place. And I'm hoping his office will be flooded with calls and emails from citizens demanding that he resign. The citizens of Illinois deserve a public servant that they can actually trust. And Roland Burris - the real Roland - apparently isn't too embarrassed to do anything necessary to fulfill his ambitions. But I have a question. If he does resign, is he entitled to any kind of Senate pension?

NEARY: Bruce Dold, do you know?

Mr. DOLD: I don't know if you get a pension after a month, now that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOLD: Even for the politicians, that might have been a tough one to pick off. I can say that the reaction from our readers has been overwhelmingly against him. You know, we don't have any scientific polling, but the snap-polling has been 90 to 10, I would say, saying that we're right, that he ought to resign. So, I do think there's a sense that people have had enough. If we do get a race, I think you'd probably see Congressman Mark Kirk from the north suburbs as the likely Republican candidate to run.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for your call, Judith. Email here from Al says, I think Burris should keep his appointment unless the legal system finds that he actually committed some illegal act in regard to this. I think the ethics committee should look into it, but it's not beyond a doubt that he actually did something wrong. So, quit annoying us with this, and help us figure out how to keep our jobs and get affordable insurance. I'm kind of sick of all this negativity. OK. Take that, Bruce Dold.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Does he have much support, by the way?

Mr. DOLD: I said there's a 10 percent out there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: OK, 10 percent. All right. Well, thanks so much for joining us today, Bruce.

Mr. DOLD: Thank you.

NEARY: Bruce Dold is the editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune. He joined us today from the studios of WGN Radio in Chicago. And you can find a link to today's Tribune editorial, entitled "Roland Burris, Resign." That's on our Web site at npr.org. So, I wanted to turn to one other thing, Ken, before the end of your segment here, and that is going back to the stimulus package and the whole issue of bipartisanship. It seems that a lot of Republican governors like this stimulus package, even if Republican members of Congress don't.

RUDIN: Well, that's a complete difference. There's, obviously, a split in the Republican Party between the GOP in Washington, which I, would say, almost unanimously voted against the stimulus package, both in the House and the Senate - only three Republican senators voted for it - and you go out in the states, like Charlie Crist in Florida, the very popular Republican governor of Florida, when Barack Obama went down there, he lauded the passage of it. He said, that's - we desperately need this infusion of money to states like Florida who are - which is suffering. And so, it's interesting once you go out of Washington, more and more Republican - oh, governors of both parties - Democrats or Republicans - but people like Charlie Crist say that this is exactly what we needed.

NEARY: We're talking with Political Junkie Ken Rudin, and you are listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I've got an email here from Rick in Louisville, Kentucky. He says, why are the Republicans willing to filibuster anything they disagree with? Why can't they simply vote no? Then if the Democrats are unsuccessful, the GOP can just say, I told you so. I find it interesting that during the Bush years, the Democrats rarely filibustered. Why are the parties so different?

RUDIN: Well, there was a lot - not a lot, I mean, I'm not comparising(ph) - I don't want to do a tit-for-tat here, but there were Democratic filibusters. They held up nominations, judicial nominations, when President Bush was in power, and when the Democrats were in the minority in the Senate. But again, the Republicans didn't have 60 votes. That's why that Gang of 14 came together, to try to avoid those judicial filibusters. So, filibusters have existed in both parties. It's been more prevalent in recent years than it has been in the past, and I guess it's part of the poisoning of relationships between the two parties. Once upon a time, like during civil rights, during going to war, the parties came together. It seems very difficult to get the parties to agree on anything, let alone monumental things like a stimulus bill.

NEARY: Also wanted to ask about what - some other things going on out there in the states, away from Washington. A lot of state budgets under great duress, none perhaps more than California. Let's talk about what's going in California right now.

RUDIN: Well, that's a mess. And what happens with California is that you need three-fifths of the vote of the state legislature - maybe it's two-thirds of the vote, to increase taxes. And so, because of that, even though the Democrats have a huge majority in the legislature, they don't have enough - they're trying to woo some Republicans, like we saw in Washington, and there is about two or three Republican holdouts that, if the Democrats and Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor, could get them to come on board, they will have a budget. But again, it's philosophically - many of these Republicans are philosophically opposed to bigger spending and higher taxes. And it's interesting, because during eight years of George W. Bush, many so-called fiscal Republicans in Washington apparently looked the other way when huge deficits were being built up. So, it's kind of interesting that - even though many Democrats in - like Washington, like California, are in control, there are still some Republicans who will cast the balance of power in deciding whether they...

NEARY: Well, of course, this is why the Republican governors like the stimulus package...

RUDIN: Right because...

NEARY: Was this exact reason.

RUDIN: Look, they don't even know if this going to work or not, but they just know that they are in such bad shape, California probably the worst, so that they just needed an infusion of money. And they hope that the stimulus bill - the bill would bring that money into the states.

NEARY: Yeah. So, what - at this point now, the next thing that the president is looking towards is trying to help us with the housing situation.

RUDIN: Well, there's home foreclosures, and he talked about that today in Mesa, Arizona. There is also the auto industry, and there's a bailout for that. You wonder whether we run out of - well, I guess we can just keep printing money, and that's what happens, but either they can make the case that this is what was left for us by - after eight years of George W. Bush. But perhaps in 2010, voters will say, well, look, you know, these deficits have not gone away, these jobs have not come back, and somebody is going to have to pay the price, and perhaps it's the Democrats who do. But right now, it looks like Barack Obama has time on his side. He still has high approval ratings. He still - he's been in office for...

NEARY: It hasn't been very long, has it?

RUDIN: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: And people are already...

RUDIN: After all this time.

NEARY: I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: After all this time.

NEARY: People are already sort of rendering judgments. Sometimes, you see editorials here and there...

RUDIN: And that's what's so silly about the whole thing about bipartisanship. Look, the ultimate thing is this: Something had to be done. I don't think Republicans are wrong philosophically to vote against it because that's philosophically where they are, and Democrats pushed it because they want this to happen and ultimately, the American people will decide, you know, who's right.

NEARY: How long do you give a president, would you say, before you start really giving - making a judgment on his success?

RUDIN: Well, I try not to play that game. But you know, you all remember on September 10th, 2001, after being in office for less than nine months, George W. Bush was at 50 percent in the polls on September 10th, and a day later he was at 90 percent. So, obviously, things can change that will turn the entire administration around. Hopefully, we don't have to go through such an awful event to change somebody's popularity or poll numbers. But things change, at the, you know, at the drop of a dime, and we've seen it over and over again.

NEARY: Ken Rudin, it's always fun to talk with you. Thanks for being here.

RUDIN: Thanks, Lynn.

NEARY: Up next, President Obama comes up with $75 billion to prevent foreclosures. Will it help you? We'll find out next. I'm Lynn Neary. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News. COST: $00.00

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